Is air quality better in the morning?

The below article talks about air quality in the morning, the factors that affect air quality, what needs to be done, along with some frequently asked questions about air quality and their risks.

Is air quality better in the morning?

There is no definite answer to the question, as air quality in the mornings keeps varying from city to city and country to country, especially depending on where the air quality is being monitored, for example at the center of a city, in a rural area, etc. Anthropological activities in the area would be a more constant factor to check air quality. By intuition, it may feel cleaner due to the lower number of vehicles on the road or due to the fact that daily operations which cause emissions have not begun yet, but this may not always be the case. Therefore, it is always best to check your local air quality at all times to ensure informed decisions are being made. 

Air pollution and air quality

Poor air quality due to increasing pollution is an extensively studied field. The effects of exposure to bad air quality are inevitable and researchers have taken up various measures to identify the different impacts air-borne pollutants could have. Air pollution has been found to impact human health severely and if exposed to it on a long-term basis, it could cause irreversible damage including respiratory conditions and neuro system damages amongst other illnesses. 

Research into air pollution in the top 30 cities in the world shows that Indian cities hold the first 21 positions and that in 2019, approximately 1.67 million deaths were attributed to long-term exposure to poor air quality. The long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution caused heart attacks, chronic lung diseases, strokes, along with neonatal diseases which were accelerated due to the poor air quality (Hadley S., 2020). 

Various countries have taken measures to ensure clean air. For example, cities like Birmingham and Madrid aim to create “clean air zones” by enforcing strict regulations within the inner-city borders, China has acknowledged the need to speed up the construction and usage of electric vehicles to ensure that decent levels of air quality can be maintained in the country, Bangladesh high court has put together several directives aimed at ministries across the country to take actions to counter the effects of air pollution on its citizens (Hadley S., 2020).

Sources of exposure to poor air quality

Air pollution and its effects can be seen globally across rural and urban areas. Exposure to poor air quality can occur indoors or outdoors and some of the sources are the following:

  • Smoke and fumes from vehicles, factories, fires, power plants, burning waste, heating systems, firecrackers, etc. 
  • Smog from indoor or outdoor fire sources
  • Tobacco smoke from primary usage or second-hand exposure
  • Burning fuel sources at close quarters like coal, oil, and wood
  • Occupational exposure such as paint fumes, varnish, automobile fumes, etc. 
  • Chemicals from cleaning agents, pesticides, paints, etc. 
  • Exposure from long-term pollutant sources like asbestos or lead paint
  • Allergens, mold spores, dander, pollen, etc. 

Prolonged exposure to poor air quality could translate to the following physical symptoms – coughing, wheezing, irritation and inflammation of eyes/ throat/skin, respiratory difficulties, chronic fatigue, breathlessness, diminished lung capacity, etc. 

Health Implications 

Health implications of poor air quality have been studied extensively and can be regularly observed across various countries in varying degrees. The inequality of air pollution is such that it is caused by the larger global actors in the economy and yet the consequences are faced by some of the most vulnerable populations in the world including marginalized communities, chronically diagnosed patients, children, senior citizens, etc. In a recent census count conducted in Fresno (in the United States) in 2020, the below statistics were revealed as chronic health implications amongst sensitive and vulnerable groups (USCB, 2020):

  • 7,298 children with asthma
  • 60,395 adults with asthma
  • 31,587 adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • 385 adults with lung cancer
  • 45,225 adults with cardiovascular disease

Reducing the impacts from poor air quality

Outdoor air quality is an important factor that plays into the well-being of one’s physical health. While there is no way to completely protect yourself from poor air quality, here are some preventative measures you can take to avoid or reduce the impacts it could have on your physical health:

  • Periodically check air quality forecasts to ensure that you stay indoors during peak hours of poor air quality. 
  • Limit your exposure to poor air quality especially during traveling or being in traffic.
  • Wear masks to reduce the intake of airborne pollutants into your bloodstream through the respiratory system
  • Wear protective glasses or sunglasses to protect your eyes from long-term exposure to air pollution as pollutants can enter your body through your eyes as well
  • Using alternatively fueled items such as hand-powered or electrically powered devices. 
  • If you have been diagnosed with asthma, make sure to carry your inhaler at all times and make a note to stay away from heavily polluted areas
  • Stay away from tobacco smoke and ban indoor smoking.
  • Ensure proper indoor air quality through proper ventilation and exhaust fans, or by installing an air purifier. 
  • Get rid of unwanted chemicals such as strong cleaning agents, paints, air fresheners, hairsprays, varnishes, etc. 
  • Use natural products wherever and whenever possible, especially for cleaning and maintenance purposes
  • Ensure that all ventilation systems are periodically monitored and cleaned, this also includes changing or cleaning the filters in your air purifier
  • Have periodical assessments of indoor air quality with help from consulting professionals from an environmental monitoring company 
  • Get air purifying plants as they are a natural and eco-friendly solution to cleaning the air and producing fresh oxygen
  • Invest in air quality monitors, sensors, or alarms that can measure indoor air quality at all times and alert you when the air quality is poor or when a certain pollutant’s concentration has increased. 

Hold your government accountable

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, along with several other global and national commitments made, each and every one of us is entitled to being able to live in a clean and healthy environment without threat to any facets of our physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health; and each of us are entitled to a life with dignity. The nature of a profit-driven world is that it leaves the ground-level communities at risk of extreme dangers from chronic health conditions like cancer and cardiovascular diseases to the most minor diseases such as skin irritations. It is therefore important for citizens to hold their ruling governments accountable for the actions they take without taking into regard the environmental or health complications it could have on the citizens and their livelihoods. 

It is important that citizens, community groups, and regional and other large-scale stakeholders band together to meet nationally determined contributions and to ensure that global goals for climate change and reducing its impacts are met with utmost efficiency and effectiveness. While state actors would be hesitant to enforce regulations on larger revenue-generating actors, it is crucial to do so, in order to ensure citizens’ health and well-being. Various global initiatives are being taken by several actors, which shows us that it is possible, but it requires the extensive efforts of all involved stakeholders. It requires that each and every actor is aware of their roles and responsibilities as global citizens and that we move towards a participatory approach to saving the environment and being eco-friendly and sustainable in our everyday actions. 

Understand the AQI readings

Sourced from The Air Quality Index Scale as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA):

AQIPollution LevelHealth ImplicationsCautionary Statement 
0 – 50GoodAir quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no riskNone
51 -100ModerateAir quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.Vulnerable and at-risk children and adults, people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
101-150Unhealthy for Sensitive GroupsMembers of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.Vulnerable and at-risk children and adults, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, should avoid outdoor exertion.
151-200UnhealthyEveryone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effectsActive children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion
201-300Very UnhealthyHealth warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.
300+HazardousEmergency Health Alert: everyone has a higher vulnerability to experience more serious health effectsEveryone should avoid all outdoor exertion

There are varying AQI scales and interpretations globally, as different countries choose to interpret them differently in order to fit their needs. Any data observed from possibly biased sources need to be viewed in a careful manner as they could be inefficiencies or discrepancies in the data collected or analyzed. Various countries mold the scale to fit their needs so that they don’t come under the spotlight for being irresponsible towards their citizens. It is always crucial to therefore check private sources of air quality data, along with state governed sources; so as to ensure the efficiency and reliable interpretations of the readings you receive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is air quality better in the mornings?

Can poor air quality affect pregnant individuals?

Yes, poor air quality can affect any individual and cause severe health hazards including neuro system damage, respiratory conditions, heart attacks, vision loss, amongst other debilitating effects. The best way to ensure reduced impacts of air pollution is to exercise preventative measures and reduce exposure to poor air quality. 

Does rain improve outdoor air quality?

Yes, studies have shown that rainfall can improve air quality, through a phenomenon called scavenging by precipitation or wet deposition. It essentially refers to when water droplets collide and coagulate with airborne pollutants and drag them to the ground, leaving them immobile and grounded. Although humans feel a significant improvement in air quality post-rainfall, various sources have confirmed that rainfall can only attribute to a maximum of 11% improvement in air quality. 

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

How can you improve indoor air quality?

Is Seattle Air Quality Good or Bad?

How bad is the air quality in Osoyoos?

References 

United States News & World Report (USN). (2015, May 30). ER Visits for Asthma Rising AMongst Kids in California. Viewed on 12-16-2021. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/05/30/er-visits-for-asthma-rising-among-kids-in-california 

Hadley S. (2020, December 21). Air Pollution is causing Permanent Damage to eye health. Viewed on 11-29-2021. Earth.org. https://earth.org/air-pollution-causing-damage-to-eye-health/ 

AirNow. (n.d.). Air Quality Index (AQI) Basics. Viewed on 11-29-2021.  https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/ 

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